THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 21
Given the urgency to prevent the loss of more dolphin and whale species, I have remained steadfastly focused on beluga whale conservation throughout my career. In 2016, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) published the Cook Inlet Recovery Plan to identify a strategy, goals, criteria, and actions targeted at recovering the species. Based on the recommendations of the Alaska Beluga Whale Committee (ABWC), Mystic Aquarium’s research team has been carrying out studies in support of the Cook Inlet Recovery Plan.
Earlier this year, I met with the team at NOAA’s regional office in Juneau, AK, to discuss not only research to expand knowledge on the endangered population of Cook Inlet belugas but also outreach new opportunities at Mystic Aquarium that will help education and inspire guests toward the conservation.
Mystic Aquarium is contributing to conservation research of belugas, not only by direct studies on belugas in the field, but also by learning as much as possible about the whales in our care. The belugas at Mystic Aquarium are important ambassadors for endangered Cook Inlet and St. Lawrence populations; enabling us to tell our nearly 800,000 annual visitors their story in an engaging and compelling way.”
Through messaging on campus, the Aquarium is also able to provide visitors with real-world applications and lifestyle changes that can have a tangible impact on the health of the environment to help ensure its sustainability for years to come.
During that same trip, I met with the president at Ilisagvik College in Barrow regarding the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) and recruitment of Alaska natives. I was also able to meet with community members and students about educational and cultural exchange program opportunities.
During this incredibly productive trip, I also spoke with the lead veterinarian in North Slope Borough Dept. of Wildlife Management in Barrow regarding beluga tissues, analyses and next steps for research.